Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Welcome to Holland

I recently heard an interesting take on raising a child with disabilities. I admit I read it at first because it is titled "Welcome to Holland," but it really struck a chord with me for several reasons. As a former first grade teacher I had the opportunity to spend many of my years in the classroom with students with different disabilities, ranging from autism to downs to cerebral palsy . . . I fell in love with these children and their families and am still in contact with most of them as the years have passed. 
And now that I have a child of my own, I realize that, so far, Liam is a perfectly healthy boy. This brings both relief and fear. He is after all only six months old, and any number of things can happen in his life that I have absolutely zero control over. When so many things can go wrong, I feel blessed that so much has gone right. 
So below is something written by Emily Perl Kingsley in 1987 . . .

“I am often asked to describe the experience of raising a child with a disability – to try to help people who have not shared that unique experience to understand it, to imagine how it would feel. It’s like this……
When you’re going to have a baby, it’s like planning a fabulous vacation trip – to Italy. You buy a bunch of guide books and make your wonderful plans. The Coliseum. The Michelangelo David. The gondolas in Venice. You may learn some handy phrases in Italian. It’s all very exciting.
After months of eager anticipation, the day finally arrives. You pack your bags and off you go. Several hours later, the plane lands. The stewardess comes in and says, “Welcome to Holland.”
“Holland?!?” you say. “What do you mean Holland?? I signed up for Italy! I’m supposed to be in Italy. All my life I’ve dreamed of going to Italy.”
But there’s been a change in the flight plan. They’ve landed in Holland and there you must stay.
The important thing is that they haven’t taken you to a horrible, disgusting, filthy place, full of pestilence, famine and disease. It’s just a different place.
So you must go out and buy new guide books. And you must learn a whole new language. And you will meet a whole new group of people you would never have met.
It’s just a different place. It’s slower-paced than Italy, less flashy than Italy. But after you’ve been there for a while and you catch your breath, you look around…. and you begin to notice that Holland has windmills….and Holland has tulips. Holland even has Rembrandts.
But everyone you know is busy coming and going from Italy… and they’re all bragging about what a wonderful time they had there. And for the rest of your life, you will say “Yes, that’s where I was supposed to go. That’s what I had planned.”
And the pain of that will never, ever, ever, ever go away… because the loss of that dream is a very very significant loss.
But… if you spend your life mourning the fact that you didn’t get to Italy, you may never be free to enjoy the very special, the very lovely things … about Holland.”

After reading through this several times, I realize that it can be applied to any "plan" we have. I "planned" to raise my kids in Georgia, close to grandparents and family. I "planned" to teach first grade for many more years. We all have "plans."

And then God has other plans. 

So I could pout and throw a pity party every day because it's hard. I could cry because I miss family and friends. And yes, I do these things every once in a while. But if I spend all my time looking back, how can I move forward? How can I miss the opportunity to enjoy "Holland," both literally and figuratively? 

So plans change and we adapt and change with them, hopefully. And tonight I will hug my little boy a little tighter and give thanks to God.

"'For I know the plans I have for you,' declares the Lord, 'plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans for a hope and a future.'"


1 comment:

  1. Thank you for sharing! Enjoy your beautiful baby boy and your adventure in Holland! :-)